“It’s a hallmark of a good citizen to give back to the community. There are so many ways we can make this a better place to live.”
The City of University Place has just honored the citizen who said that – someone who has found so many ways to give back to the community. Debbie Klosowski was applauded by UP City Council members Dec. 8 when they recognized her as “a powerful influence for good in our community” for more than two decades and presented her with a City of University Place proclamation.
Klosowski has served as both an elected official and a creative civic leader who helped bring about some of UP’s best community’s assets. An elected member of UP’s inaugural City Council after incorporation in 1995, she continued on the Council through 2010 and served two terms as Mayor.
Along the way
In addition to working to help UP take shape as a new city, she gave energy and enthusiasm to other causes. Along the way, she has been a spark in the development of these community benefits – the Curran Apple Orchard, the UP for Arts endeavor and the SunDogs off-leash dog park.
It’s a story of being proud of her community – and service.
“We’ve got to live here!” Klosowski reports declaring when the Wisconsin native and her husband, Dr. Peter Link, came to the area to check on a medical position. “We saw a newspaper ad about a house that overlooked this apple orchard, so we came here and ended up getting that house.” Thus began Klosowski’s strong connection to the Curran Apple Orchard – but first, more about her entry into the civic scene before incorporation.
“I noticed a lot of good things going on in this community, but there were some things lacking. There were no sidewalks, no street lights and Pierce County was allowing development without being concerned about its impacts,” she explained. So she started going to the UP Community Council to see what was going on.
“One of my pet peeves is people complaining but not being willing to work on needs,” said Klosowski. She started door-belling to encourage residents to vote in favor of incorporation, which they did in 1994. Then came the question about standing for election to the City Council after official incorporation in 1995.
“I never had wanted to go into politics and I was rather new here. But University Place people are so welcoming – this is such a close-knit community,” she commented. A final factor, she smilingly noted, was her husband’s comment that she should run for a Council position “because you’re going to go to all their meetings, anyway.”
Why did this lively lady move on to other community pursuits? It’s obvious that she has an affinity for activities that bring people together.
Good example – the people-friendly Curran Apple Orchard. She got to know her good neighbors, Charles (Chuck) and Mary Curran, and became aware of the beauty and peacefulness of the seven-acre orchard they created. When family ownership of the acreage was ending, “I got involved because I was concerned that we might lose it,” said Klosowski. When she started talking about it, “people came out of the woodwork” and it was clear that they too wanted to protect the site, she said.
Klosowski wrote the grant that secured the funds for purchase of the property by Pierce County Conservation Futures – which turned it over to the City of University Place – which declared it a city park. Klosowski then worked with others and co-founded CORE (Curran Orchard Resources Enthusiasts), the group that has developed the orchard’s positive activities that make it one of UP’s favorite sites.
More than 700 kids come for tours every year. They learn some botany as they are guided among the trees and have fun. “Our Johnny Appleseed, in costume, is like a rock star for those kids,” she reported.
The orchard also offers entertainment – summer concerts on the stage designed by Curtis High students. “It’s just an enjoyable way to spend a summer evening,” said Klosowski. “We’ve even had a deer walk right in front of the stage when a band was performing.”
There is the annual cider squeeze, the only regional squeeze held in an actual orchard. Again highlighting the orchard’s benefits, Klosowski recalled the decision to go ahead with the cider squeeze after 9/11. “It turned out to be one of the best events because people just needed a place to get together – a safe place,” she said.
UP for Arts
Klosowski is also recognized for co-founding UP for Arts, an organization that is enriching the personality of our community. For 15 years, UP for Arts has supported the acquisition and placement of a variety of art around the city. The group provides opportunities for artists to share their talents with the public by staging the fall and spring Arts and Concerts Series and displays in the Civic Building atrium.
In addition to opportunities for citizens, Klosowski spotted a way to benefit UP’s furry residents – an off-leash dog park. “I posted a small sign on the city readerboard saying ‘Dog park meeting; and a lot of people showed up,” she said. This launched SunDogs (Safe Unleashed Natural Dogs) - which negotiated with Pierce County, got a small (less than one acre) designated site at Chambers Meadows and raised the money for fences, benches and supplies.
However, it’s an on-again, off-again story. The park was deactivated for the U.S. Open tournament, then put back – but is now facing an uncertain future as the county plans to revise the Chambers Creek Properties Master Plan next spring.
Inviting people to visit the SunDogs website (www.up-dogpark.org), Debbie said, “We’re going to need a lot of people to show up at the public meetings in spring and support this important recreational need.”
Klosowski’s future plans? She obviously isn’t thinking about sitting still. She and her family (which includes son Matt Link and daughter Marissa Link) will be traveling. She will be organizing UP for Arts events – has a started a family-history photography project – and there’s Curran pruning in February. “I love to prune!” she said. “It’s a really good stress reliever – while you’re helping a tree.”
As the recipient of the city’s proclamation obviously sees it, “There’s no reason to be bored in University Place. So many things to do – the list goes on and on.”